and all this time I thought I was the bad parent

I wanted to rant like a crazy woman after reading Allison Benedikt’s manifesto on private schools vs. public schools where she suggests parents who send their children to private schools are bad persons. I really really wanted to be clever and bitingly sarcastic, but when I finally sat down to write, the best I could muster was a little pity.

Her premise certainly got my attention: if parents who have the means to send their children to private school would channel their children into the public school system instead, then the school system would benefit from those parents who would work hard to improve the schools. Not doing so is selfish.

A new spin on distribution of wealth? Only this time, it’s a distribution of homeroom mommies? Seriously?

She acknowledges that this improvement would take generations, and in the meantime, those generations of students who could have had excellent educations, won’t, and it’s no big deal — it’s all worth the sacrifice for the common good. After all, she had a crappy education and doesn’t know anything about art and culture and all that stuff, and look at her, she’s turned out ok.

That’s a pretty odd thing to be proud of, but she’s probably right. One assumes she’s a productive and contributing citizen. Of course, I’m just assuming here….

Benedikt ends her ludicrous “fix” for the state of public education by using the usual emotional appeal, “Don’t just acknowledge your liberal guilt — listen to it.”

I found myself periodically looking at the site’s flag at the top of the page to verify that I didn’t accidentally click on a link to The Onion.

Why should anyone need to feel guilty about being financially successful and in the position to pay for things that will enrich their children’s lives? And why on earth would she demonize those parents and call them “bad persons” or as Max Lindenman clarifies, “bad Americans?”

I pretty much dismissed the whole thing for what it is, the ignorant screed of an attention-hungry misguided koolaid-drinking nut. Or as she self-identifies, judgmental.

Except, she says some things that are true. Or at least sound like they could be true:

I get it: You want an exceptional arts program and computer animation and maybe even Mandarin. You want a cohesive educational philosophy. You want creativity, not teaching to the test. You want great outdoor space and small classrooms and personal attention. You know who else wants those things? Everyone.

Whatever you think your children need—deserve—from their school experience, assume that the parents at the nearby public housing complex want the same.

I think that’s valid in most cases. However, there’s a big difference between wanting something, and wanting something, so you work for it. I want to lose 20 pounds; meanwhile, wait a second while I go serve myself another bowl of ice cream.

Surprisingly, I also agree with Benedikt that the fix will likely take generations, although the solution does not depend upon having parents run strong PTAs. Don’t misunderstand me, strong parental support is not just a good, but an important part of any educational program. Children need to see and know that their parents support them.

The bigger problem, what she doesn’t address at all, is that the public school system(s) needs reform. In fact, more than reform, there needs to be a complete and total makeover. Of the school system and society.

But here’s the thing, we probably don’t even have to focus so much on reform as we do on accountability.

Corruption and a lack of oversight at every level have been damaging our children for decades, and the political machine that re-elects school boards that are more interested in perks than learning are to blame.

So are superintendents who are sycophantic to these boards.

And the principals, who tolerate mediocrity and poor performance.

And teachers who don’t teach.

And students who don’t take responsibility for their learning.


Oh. Did I just say that out loud?

4 thoughts on “and all this time I thought I was the bad parent

  1. I haven’t read her piece, but does she mention religious ed as part of the private curricula? My grandparents were dirt poor but worked their butts off to put all 9 children through Catholic school. And my single grandma and her mom worked tables and cleaned houses so my dad and his sister could attend Catholic school. So much for lazy, selfish people. 😉

    1. She actually DOES give a pass to religious education.

      I’m mostly offended by the idea that it’s the parents who send their children to private school who should sacrifice their children in order to go fix the situation in public schools. There’s a level of elitism in that comment that suggests that “class of people” are the ones who can fix the problem. Max points that out in his response.

      There’s more to this…definitely a less screedy response from me that is less calling Benedikt delusional, and more looking at what’s seriously wrong with what she said. I strongly believe in accountability within the existing system. I taught public high school for over a decade. I taught side-by-side with some of the most excellent educators I’ve ever met, and learned much from their willingness to share their love of the vocation. I also taught next to people who were pulling in a paycheck (the same or more than mine) and not even glorifying what they did as babysitting.

      To suggest that the poor are less capable because they are poor is ridiculous. But poor and rich alike, too many parents are abdicating their roles in their children’s development (educational, social, and religious) to institutions. Clearly, your grandparents didn’t, as they saw what they believed to be the right path for their children, and pursued it despite the sacrifice. Isn’t that what parents are supposed to do? Yet, Benedikt would have them parenting all the kids in the neighborhood. On the one hand, that’s good. But on the other hand, it’s the repsonsibility of those other parents to do their part, too.

      1. Yes. Not to mention the fact that change comes more often when people *rise to the occasion* on their own. What needs to be done in order to challenge more parents to rise to the occasion? Does the current system encourage that challenge? I would think not. To me, it seems that the current system encourages government intervention vs. challenging parents to take on a major role in their children’s education.

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